By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
After celebrating the Mass yesterday, Divine Mercy Sunday, in the Church of the Holy Spirit in the Saxon District, Pope Francis resumed Masses at the Casa Santa Marta on Monday.
Introducing the Mass, Pope Francis said: “Let us pray today for the men and women who have a political vocation. Politics is a high form of charity.” He went on to pray that political parties might “seek together the good of the country and not the good of their own parties” during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Nicodemus and Jesus
Beginning his homily, Pope Francis reflected on Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews and a righteous Pharisee. He would go to Jesus by night because he knew that those who associated with Jesus were not looked on well. Nicodemus felt restless because he knew that Jesus’s actions had been foretold by the prophets. Coming up to Jesus, he confesses: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Pope Francis notes that Nicodemus’ confession stops before the “therefore,” the “what next”. This hinders him from understanding fully and from making the leap he needs to make.
A new kind of birth
Responding to Nicodemus, Jesus said: “Unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus understands this statement literarily. So he asks how one can be born again as an adult. Jesus explained that to be born from above is to be born of the Spirit.
“The Spirit is unpredictable,” said Pope Francis. Jesus’s own definition of the Spirit describe it as “the wind blows where it wants and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so is everyone born of the Spirit.” A person who is docile to the Spirit is one who lets himself or herself “be carried from one place to another by the Holy Spirit.” It is in this way that a person attains freedom in the Spirit.
The sign of a good Christian
“Being a good Christian is not only fulfilling the commandments,” explains Pope Francis. “If you stop there, you are not a good Christian.” To be a good Christian is “to let the Spirit enter into you and take you where He wants you.” Like Nicodemus, we may be tempted to stop before the “therefore”, the “what next” because we do not know what step to take, or we do not trust God enough to let His Spirit enter into us. However, to be truly born again, we must be willing to allow ourselves to be guided in the “freedom of the Spirit” even though we do not know where we will end up.
Courage and freedom in the Spirit from prayer
Pope Francis explained that in the face of difficulties and closed doors, the disciples went to the Lord in prayer and they were filled with the Spirit. Thus, “prayer is what opens the door to the Spirit and gives us freedom.”
Pope Francis noted that in the First Reading, the Christian community was a little bit afraid when Peter and John returned to the community after being interrogated by the priests. They turned to God in prayer and effectively had a “second Pentecost” – the place where they were gathered trembled, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They became emboldened and preached the Word of God courageously.
“This is being born of the Spirit…not stopping at the ‘therefore;’ at the ‘therefore’ of the things I have always done, at the ‘therefore’ beyond the commandments, at the ‘therefore’ beyond religious habits,” Pope Francis said.
Concluding his homily, the Pope prayed that through prayer, we might receive the gift of courage from the Holy Spirit, even though we may not know where it will lead us.
“May the Lord help us to always be open to the Spirit, so that it will be He who brings us ahead in our life of service to the Lord.”